Watchdog

Saint Al’s employee charged with stealing $1M, including from Festival of Trees

A crime both small and big businesses are victims of: embezzlement

Ever wonder what embezzlement is? This white collar crime is hurting businesses all over.
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Ever wonder what embezzlement is? This white collar crime is hurting businesses all over.

An employee of Saint Alphonsus Health System is accused of stealing $1 million over the past 14 years, including from the popular Festival of Trees annual fundraiser.

Lois Soito, 60, of Horseshoe Bend, was indicted last week by a federal grand jury on 10 counts of wire fraud, according to U.S. Attorney Bart M. Davis.

Davis announced the charges in a news release Thursday.

The FBI and Boise Police Department investigated, prompted by information from Saint Alphonsus, the news release said.

According to the indictment, Soito worked for Saint Al’s for about 22 years, mostly in accounts receivable. Her tenure with the Boise-based health system ended Jan. 31.

From at least 2005 to January of this year, Soito defrauded the health system of at least $1 million, the indictment says.

The scheme involved Soito arranging for someone else to sign blank checks for an “employee support team” account, “under the guise of reimbursing individuals and/or paying vendors for services,” the indictment says. She took the checks, made them payable to herself, and deposited them into her own accounts, it says.

The indictment lists 10 checks deposited between 2014 and 2018 in amounts ranging from about $6,500 to about $21,000.

“It is further alleged in the indictment that Soito collected the cash from the Festival of Trees, under the guise of depositing it into the proper bank account,” the news release says. “The indictment further alleges that instead of depositing the cash in the appropriate account, Soito kept the cash and substituted miscellaneous checks for the deposit.”

Saint Alphonsus took in $7.2 million of gross receipts, and spent $3.3 million, for the Festival of Trees fundraiser between fiscal years 2008 and 2016 — the only years for which those tax records are available.

Wire fraud carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and up to three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.

The health system on Thursday said in a news release that a former employee — whom it did not name — had “engaged in embezzlement” and was facing felony criminal charges.

“When the concerns of financial impropriety that form the basis for the criminal charges initially came to Saint Alphonsus’ attention, we took immediate action, including reporting the concerns to law enforcement and working cooperatively with law enforcement during its investigation,” the news release said.

Saint Alphonsus said in the release that it could not comment further.

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Watchdog reporter Audrey Dutton joined the Statesman in 2011. Before that, she covered finance policy in Washington, D.C., during the financial crisis. She also worked as a reporter in Maryland, Minneapolis and New York. Audrey hails from Twin Falls.
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